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Quantum - The Atari Times


Dull "snake"-like game from Atari
by Darryl Brundage

March 9, 2009
In Atari's game-making history of three decades, give or take a few years (and not counting Infogrames being "Atari"), they had all kinds of gigantic hits, some cult favorites, some crap, and total flops.

Quantum was an interesting mixture of being a bomb, yet having a cult following years later (which I'll get to at the end). Granted, this wasn't Atari's fault, since they didn't make the game anyway -- GCC was ordered to make it as part of a legal settlement with Atari for an illegal speed-up kit they made for Missile Command -- along with Food Fight (a way better game), Atari just distributed it.

In this one, you must capture sub-atomic particles with your probe. This could be the start of the problems with this game with it's unusual premise and it's dull building of levels that are long to change. (Not that I have anything against science, but how many times have you heard of this scenario playing out in the video game world? Right, not many!)

Sort of like any of the tons of "snake" games that have come out over the years, you drag a tail behind you, but unlike those snake games, it doesn't grow, and nor do you eat anything (except for your lunch money for pumping quarters into this game, although chances are you didn't anyway, due to it's poor arcade performance, which I'll also get to at the end). However, the tail starts disappearing after a few seconds, so you have to hurry to ensnare any particles in your lasso...uh, trail, I guess. (Hey, "trail", "lasso", maybe this would have done better with a Western theme, like Activision's way more popular Stampede game; yee hah! [insert cracking whip sound here]) Touching almost everything that moves proves to be fatal, and certain particles release smaller ones that are quicker and harder to capture, but yield big points if you can do so.

Unfortunately this isn't the usual Atari fare (again, though, they didn't make it) with great gameplay or anything, the first several levels aren't much of a change at all, you just rope away (another Western dig there) at particles, whee. Finally after several screens, certain particles will appear that are joined together; encircle one of them when their bond isn't red, and that breaks the bond, if you touch the line when it is red, you'll die. There's also other elements that appear, like ones that look like harmless squares, but then lines quickly grow out of them that make them resemble a flying bird, which touching those lines will also cost you a life, among other things, like quickly tumbling stars.

The game is also pretty quiet, not having a lot of sounds to it, but they're adequate. However, when you look at a game that came out in (roughly) the same time period, like Gottlieb's Mad Planets, which had AWESOME sounds and music, it seems like this one should have had a few musical pieces or something to brighten the game up a little. Even though I'm a vector graphic nut, the graphics aren't much here either; just a few shapes, and even some of the particles are filled in, like they're raster! It seems like not much effort was put into this game, only thing really saving it is the infallible trackball controller. I think it could have benefited by having a better level build-up, being able to encircle power-ups that could freeze the action, have some particles shoot at you, etc...about the only Atari trademark that is properly in place (besides the trackball) is the choosing of levels at the beginning of a game, and possibly signing your name for having the highest score. The gameplay is perfectly solid as it is, it just doesn't really have a lot of "pizzaz" or anything, and it isn't very fun, as I didn't stuff tons of tokens into Quantum back in the day at a local game room, I just would play a game here and there and then go on to something else, as rumor has it that game room operators returned Quantum to Atari in disgust for it performing poorly, and it was never ported to any home Atari consoles either, another sign of it's failure.

However, the game seems to have enjoyed a cult following years later, as I've read posts on gaming forums about people either playing it at a local gaming expo that I've attended or saying they wanted to but missed the show (can't remember which). So it appears that time has been kind to this unusual, rare game over the years.

Even though I don't think that much of it. (With no blame to science over it, either.)


(c) Atari

Luckily, I had the ROM in MAME...
Yes, I have such a steady hand!
System: Arcade
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 60%
Sound & Music Score: 55%
Gameplay Score: 65%
Control Score: 100%

Final Score: 60%

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